Figuring Out Fighting for Ourselves

From a talk by Diane Shisk at the Washington, D.C., and Maryland, USA, Regional Community Building Workshop, February 2012

It always helps to hear complex things from different people’s perspectives, so I’m going to talk about the work Tim[1] has been having us do for the last number of years: fighting for ourselves. I’m Tim’s Alternate,[2] so I figure one of my jobs is to really know what he’s talking about and communicate it clearly and widely. I find there are many parts to this work and that getting the full benefit of it requires that we engage ourselves in every stage of it.


Let’s start with the phrase fighting for ourselves. Who knows how to do that? Who of us hasn’t been told many times and in many ways that we’re not worth fighting for, or that we’re supposed to fight for others but not ourselves? For those of us who can still fight, it’s mostly in a pattern. We’re not fighting for ourselves from a human place; it’s reactive or defiant. Fighting for ourselves from a place of caring for ourselves—so we can have big, full lives and full access to our minds—is what Tim is talking about. To do that we have to go up against a lot of oppression, a lot of feelings that we’re not worth it.

There is a lot, a lot, a lot, we have to face to decide to do this work. That battle in our sessions is huge and important. Each of us needs to discharge to where we actually know we’re worth fighting for, so it’s not just a direction. It’s important that we know that nobody is more important than we are and that our battles are significant and deserve to be fully fought; that it makes sense we have people close to us who will fight on our side, that we have resource for ourselves. We won’t have the world we want, we won’t have the lives we want, if we individually aren’t fighting for ourselves. This isn’t a capitalist kind of fighting for ourselves, in which we step on somebody else to get ahead and our fight is at others’ expense. This is fighting to get ourselves back from the hurts of living in an oppressive society, from having the hurts accumulate on us all our lives. This kind of fighting for ourselves moves everyone forward.


So the first big piece of work is to decide we’re worth fighting for and discharge our way to knowing that. Then we get to look at what that means. What does it mean to fight for ourselves? Certainly there are a lot of places in our lives where we have to fight for ourselves, stand up for ourselves, fight against oppression. It’s important that we do that, and doing that is encompassed in this work. But what Tim is particularly talking about here, for us as Co-Counselors, is fighting against the effects of distress recordings on our lives and our minds. To me this is our clearest formulation so far of the work we are doing for re-emergence. It’s a big advance in our counseling theory and practice.

For many years we’ve tackled a lot of feelings and worked to free our minds from the effects of distress recordings. Our lives and perspectives on the world are different because of that, but for all of us, no matter how long we’ve been in RC or what level of leadership we’re taking, some distresses haven’t moved; in some places we’re much the same as we were when we started counseling. This must be because we as a Community haven’t been able to fully apply the discharge process to some heavy early distresses. For all of us, some things happened when we were very young that were so crushing, so discouraging, that we closed the door on ever going back to look at them (or when we looked, the feelings were so overwhelming we soon turned away), so the effects of those hurts have remained unchallenged. In this way, we all had horrible childhoods, with big early hurts, which got recorded along with how defeated we felt and how there was no help for us. We know that little ones are fully human. We all started out with the ability to fight for ourselves, and we fought against having distress recordings leave scars on our minds. Whatever distressing thing came at us, we didn’t agree to be hurt. We fought against it with every resource and understanding of the world we could. But we were little, we didn’t understand a lot of things about the world, and we were overpowered by the incident.

We started life expecting that some very basic things would be in place—things like being welcomed with warmth and human connection—and they weren’t. We expected people to see us and to notice that we were human and had functioning minds. We expected to be part of the people we were born into. And the people around us weren’t in shape[3] for any of that. Apparently human beings lost the discharge process pretty[4] early in the history of humankind. People who didn’t understand the process and hadn’t had a chance to discharge couldn’t fully welcome us, couldn’t let us show what we needed to show after birth, couldn’t stay with us as we tried for a human connection. Even if they were feeling tender and warm and loving, and they headed for that connection with us, as soon as we started discharging they got uncomfortable. And we did start discharging, as the warm, human connection came at us. It was a set-up that we didn’t understand, and they didn’t understand. In the best of circumstances, when things were heading in a really good direction, we started doing what we knew to do to begin healing from what had happened to us before and during birth, and, of course, the discharge soon got stopped—and that was very hard on us. We couldn’t make deep human contact. It’s hard on us that inherently we have this process—and that we know how to use it, and it’s natural and right and makes a difference for us—and we don’t get to use it, because when we try, people get tight and we lose contact.

So we all ended up on our own, not being deeply connected to other people, and then more hard things happened. And we tried as little ones to heal from them by using the discharge process, we tried to resolve the damage and work it out then, and we couldn’t. We fought not to surrender to the effects of the hurt, and we lost. Our use of the process got shut down, and then that became part of the hurt. It became part of the hurt that we tried to recover and couldn’t.

So in these early struggles there’s the content of the hurt, and right in there with that is the feeling of defeat, of fighting for ourselves and losing and eventually having to settle for something that is less than us, less than what makes sense, less than human. We go on by ourselves, determined or resigned to go ahead anyway, even if life is not what we expected. We go on, and we go on, over and over. But little pieces of ourselves keep getting locked away by distress recordings.

So here we are today. Ever since we got into RC, we’ve steadily gone back to try to work on these things that happened to us. But some of them, when we were so young and so vulnerable, came in very harshly. The feelings back there are raw, and layered over with discouragement. We’ve tried to head back there as client, but when we do, all the feelings from the incident surface. Overwhelmed with those feelings, and without a clear understanding of why we feel that way, we have gotten discouraged, changed course, and worked on something that didn’t feel so difficult. “Well, I can’t work on that in this session, so I’ll work on something else.” Many of us have stopped even trying to go back and work on things that we know are key issues for us. And this shows up in our lives. We’re not having the fullness of life that we know we could have, that would be available to us if we cleaned up these early hurts.

You can see this in leaders like me who have been around for a long time. You know that I’m really excellent in many ways, but then look at that odd recording. Why am I still like that after all these years? I can tell you why: There’s one of those big, horrible recordings back there that I haven’t been able to go back and face, and stay with, and work to resolve, so I have this big thorn in my life.

Conditions have changed a lot over the years in the RC Communities. We think things have shifted enough that we now have the resource as a Community to steadily do this early work. I know that a lot of you are newer to Co-Counseling, which is great. You’re still clearing out the brush pile of distresses right in front of you and may not know a lot of the big places you’ll be concentrating resources on, and that’s fine. But I think it’ll be useful to have this in your mind from the earliest days of counseling. It is a great way to organize your counseling. It’s something you will want to do as soon as you discharge enough to figure out how to do it.


So what we’re trying to do as client is decide that no matter how bad it feels or how bad a session we feel like we’re going to get, no matter how hopeless it’s going to feel, we’re going to go back and work on that horrible thing that happened. We’re going to decide we’re worth it. We’re going to point our mind at those ugly, horrible-feeling places and go after[5] them. We’re going to make a firm decision to do this for ourselves, and also decide that we won’t reconsider this decision when we’re restimulated.


We’re also going to need to learn to use counseling resource better than we have before. We’re going to need to build the kind of Co-Counseling relationships in which we can fully show these early hurts. We’re going to need to work through the patterns that have made us unable to fully use a counselor who is there with us. We’ll have to discharge what keeps us from actually noticing our counselor, feeling his or her caring for us, and letting ourselves care as much back. We want to feel our counselor tucked in with us as we turn to face the early hurts. We have the potential now of having someone with us. We just have to do the work to really have each other.

This is a crucial part of the work of fighting for ourselves. One reason we haven’t been able to face the devastation of the early defeats is that we’ve been too alone as clients. The isolation and discouragement that have weighed on all of us have interfered with our using the counselor fully, with bringing our counselor fully into our session. We appreciate the presence of our counselor but then proceed to counsel ourselves, often not even looking up or informing the counselor of what’s happening in our mind. Our mind alone doesn’t provide the resource we need to go after these big early hurts; we need each other in a bigger way. But we have the tools to discharge the isolation and build the strong relationships with our counselors that will let us use this process fully.


Tim has laid out for us a useful technique for doing this work: going back for the little you. Engaging in it requires that we do all of these steps, in close communication with our counselor. It is a great roadmap to effectively discharging on heavy early material.[6] I’ve put a short summary of the technique at the end of this article.


Once we have our counselor close in with us, what we want to do is go back and discharge on these early hurts. Bring your counselor (if you’re in a group, you can bring the whole group with you); take all the resource you can back to that early spot and open up the discharge on it. We need to look at what happened, feel how devastated we were, and fully discharge in that spot. There’s lots to discharge right there. Don’t try to skip over that step. Really look at how devastated you were—how alone you felt, how horrible, how scared—and discharge those feelings. Face them fully. Don’t give in to the pull to turn away from any part of the memory because it feels too big or too hard or too scary to face. We need to face everything that happened, and how it affected us, and discharge, discharge, discharge. We can’t get ourselves back fully without fully facing and discharging what happened.


We’re also realizing that just feeling the feelings and discharging doesn’t resolve the distress. It looks like some change in our perspective is needed. You as a client, with the help of your counselor, want to reach for a different perspective on what happened to you—a perspective that’s outside of being a victim. (We’re not blaming anyone for being a victim. We were little and helpless. We all were victims in those early incidents. But part of completely discharging our way out of the hurt seems to be a shift to a perspective of not agreeing to stay a victim to what happened to us.) As we work on the early hurt, we take a stand that it’s not okay with us that it happened; it’s not okay that it left us this way.

There is always some stand we can take in opposition to what happened. We don’t have to keep feeling like we’re just lying there, sad and upset that it happened to us. We’re trying to shift out of that feeling and then discharge from the new perspective of being opposed to what happened. We’re moving in our sessions from a feeling of defeat to one of triumph. “This happened, but you don’t get me. It was awful, but it won’t pull me down forever. It happened, but I’m not living my whole life in these feelings.” That’s what we mean by fighting for ourselves and resolving the early hurts so they don’t have a permanent hold on our minds.

One thing that’s helped me wrap my mind around what Tim means by “resolving” the early distress is how he’s said that even though we had horrible childhoods, and all those awful things happened, those aren’t the worse things that happened. The worst thing is that we didn’t get to discharge the hurts fully at the time they happened. Instead we got stuck in the feeling of the hurts for our whole lives, because we couldn’t discharge. If we had been able to discharge, we would have cried, screamed, shook, raged, and so on. We would have fully used this natural process. If the discharge hadn’t been so shut down, we would have naturally worked our way through all the distress and “bounced back,” as Tim says. We would have come back to our full, fresh, human state of being. I think what we’re trying to do now is what we would have done as little ones if we’d had the resource.

If you’ve stayed with little ones who are discharging on hard things, you’ve seen this shift in perspective happen very naturally. They will cry and cry and cry and cry and scream and scream and sweat and sweat, and then you’ll see them turn bright with rage and just scream at you and scream at you and scream at you, like “How dare you?” It’s really just like “How dare you?” I pull that picture into my mind as I try to find my way to being opposed to what happened to me and fight my way through to the end of the damage.

So those are my thoughts about the work we are trying to do now. The same approach also works well with oppression, with looking at how racism, sexism, and so on, came in at us.We can discharge, as we have been, on how we’ve suffered from oppression, and then look at it again to find the place where we can shift our perspective and refuse to agree to live under that oppression (or oppressor material).

Tim talks about our commitment as a Community to doing this work—for ourselves as individuals and also for our people, and for all people; how we get to resolve the societal hurts that have smashed all of us.


The technique of “going back for the little one” involves you as a client deciding to work on a horrible incident by going back in a session to be with your young self at the time of the incident. Here’s what’s worked for me in doing a lot of these sessions:

I don’t skip over any feelings. I assume that all of the feelings are connected to my fight for myself. If I have feelings about working early,[7] fighting for myself, or doing a technique, I work on them. I work on any feelings that come up about that young self and going back to be with her. Any feelings that come up I hold up to discharge.

When I have worked on that set of feelings and decided to go back to the young me in an early incident, I ask my counselor to come with me. I need his or her mind with me; I am not enough. I have to really ask him or her to come. I work on any feelings that come up at that point. Many of us have to do many, many sessions on really asking someone to come with us. I’m sure I have discharged at least twenty hours on this part, but now all of my sessions are so much better, as I am more connected to my counselor. A wide range of feelings can arise: “I don’t want you to come back with me, you can’t do any good.” “I can’t believe you’d want to come back with me.” “I’m scared to have you see me back there.” If I can’t tell[8] that my counselor wants to come with me, I work on my doubts, on where I can’t tell that he or she wants to join in my battle by my side. I persist until I’m well connected.

I take as much initiative as client as I can. Where I can’t yet take initiative, my counselor steps in and helps until I can take initiative. And I stay in good, close contact with my counselor at each step.

Once my counselor is tucked in there with me, I head back to find my young self in one of those early desperate situations. I work on whatever comes up about going back there (again, fruitful ground for lots of feelings that shouldn’t be skipped over). I picture the young me in my mind. What does she look like? Where would she be? I call out and tell her I’m coming. I put the young me in an active role in the situation, I don’t let her wait passively. I have her call out to me, help me find her. I ask her to show me what it’s been like waiting there so long.

In the first many sessions in which I used this technique, all I could think of to do when I got back to her was tell stories that changed what actually happened: stories about rescuing her, fighting back for her, helping her fight harder. I could discharge a lot with these improved versions of what happened. But then, as I came to understand better what Tim meant by resolving the distress, I started trying to fully face what happened to me and find a perspective that wasn’t one of defeat. I asked myself what it would mean to no longer be a victim at that moment. What would I feel? What would I think or say? What perspective would I reach that would be fully human? As I discharge at that spot, things come to mind and my perspective continues to shift.

[1] Tim Jackins, the International Reference Person for the RC Communities
[2] Alternate International Reference Person
[3] In shape means in a condition.
[4] Pretty means quite.
[5] Go after means pursue.
[6] Material means distress.
[7] Working early means discharging on early distress
[8] Tell means perceive.

Last modified: 2014-10-19 04:35:20+00